The red maple is a stately tree with impressive foliage, especially when its leaves change color in the fall. This tree has the largest north-to-south range of any forest-dwelling tree in the eastern forests of the United States, extending from the northern parts of Newfoundland all the way to south Florida. The red maple is also the state tree of Rhode Island.
The leaves are 2 to 6 inches in length with the unmistakable maple leaf form of three to five pointed lobes with V-shaped spaces between them. The leaves can also have toothed margins. They are slightly red when first emerging, eventually changing to medium green with silvery undersides. In fall, the leaves turn an impressive red color. The flower is also red and appears in small clusters. The seeds, which ripen earlier than most other maples, are flat with a wing that assists in disbursing them by wind. The bark is relatively thin and grayish in color.
Red maples grow fast and can add more than two feet of growth per year, in optimal conditions. The plant has a wide range and grows well from hardiness zone 10 in the United States to well into Canada. The roots of red maple trees tend to run close to the surface and can lift sidewalks and drives if planted too closely to them. The exposed roots can also make for difficult lawn mowing.
The red maple can grow to 75 feet tall and 35 feet across. The shape of the tree is roughly oval or round with an irregular canopy. The tree is fairly dense with a medium texture. Red maple usually grows from a single leader trunk, although clumping of trunks can occur.
Easily transplanted from nursery stock. red maples are readily available and quick to establish. The tree does well in full sun, but will tolerate some shade. Red maples grow well in a range of soil conditions, although they prefer wet and less alkaline soil. They also aren't particularly drought tolerant. When young, red maples need pruning, remove upright branches on the tree, in favor of lateral branches that grow to form a stronger structure.
This is a popular tree in residential settings as an ornamental shade tree and is preferred over other maple trees, when fast growth is required. It is frequently used in metropolitan areas to line streets and highways. Red maple brings a great deal of color to the landscape, especially in the fall. It does generate a considerable amount of leaf litter. The fruit and leaves of red maple also serve as food for wildlife. This tree is also frequently trimmed as a bonsai plant.